Ecologically, Africa's tallest peak is a world in miniature. On what other
mountain can you journey from dry fields and farms into steaming jungles, then
up through exotic heaths and moorlands to an alpine desert and finally a
glaciated summit? Each of Kilimanjaro's six distinct ecological zones has its
own climate and coterie of flora and fauna. Beginning with the band of rain
forest that girdles the mountain's base starting at about 6,000 feet, this
microcosmic Gaia gets gradually drier, cooler, and more inhospitable to plants,
animals, and people as one ascends to the sparkling summit at 19,340 feet.
To get a sense of what distinguishes each zone, click on the diagram at left.
By the end, if nothing else, you'll know what kinds of clothes you'd need to
bring for an ascent (hint: all of them).—Peter Tyson